Saturday, October 16, 2010

Emergency plan essential to stakes

 (Image courtesy of

Dear Folks:

This fire happened not far from us.  This type of thing can happen anywhere as well.  It is important that we are all prepared as individuals and families, but also as Wards and Stakes (Congregations).  Please read this article from the LDS Newsroom.

Emergency plan essential to stakes
Units in all areas of the Church can benefit from preparation

By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer.  Published: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010


Folks living in the Herriman Utah Rose Canyon Stake likely began their Sabbath on Sept. 26 with the typical Sunday concerns: getting the children dressed for Primary, maybe making some last minute tweaks to the Relief Society lessons or perhaps scheduling some final home teaching visits.

Implementing the stake's emergency preparedness plan was not part of the day's schedule. Still, by day's end, that plan was in full effect. When an afternoon wildfire was sparked in the dry hills above the stake, many of the members had just minutes to gather up a few precious items and get out of their homes. An evacuation order in the stake and neighboring communities left members with little time to organize.

Fortunately, most of the organizing had already taken place. Long before the first sign of fire, stake and ward leaders had developed emergency response plans and established relationships with local public safety agencies. Civic and Church emergency response officials have saluted the Herriman Utah Rose Canyon Stake and its leaders for having a well-organized stake emergency plan that allowed for a timely evacuation and reliable communication during the harried moments when it appeared the fast-moving blaze might spread into their homes and meetinghouses.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret NewsHomes are evacuated as a fire rages in Rose Canyon near Herriman, Utah, on Sept. 19. Many residents of the area had just a few minutes to gather a few belongings and flee their homes. Local wards implemented emergency plans to ensure the welfare of members and others.

Lynn Samsel, who directs the Church humanitarian response office, said the Rose Canyon Stake's emergency plan response was followed as designed. Such a plan was invaluable to the local members and others in the community.

"The stake already had a plan and [public safety] relationships in place," said Brother Samsel.

Rose Canyon 2nd Ward Bishop Brian Verwer, whose congregation was among the first to be evacuated, said the stake had been involved in emergency response training for a couple of years. "And a lot of the members have been through Community Emergency Response Team (or CERT) training," he added.

Natural disaster or civil unrest can occur anywhere at almost anytime — and members need to be prepared. The Church has directed units to prepare emergency response plans through their ward and stake welfare committees functioning under the direction of the bishop or stake president. Plans should be updated periodically as local circumstances change. Each plan should include:

— Disasters likely to occur and response actions needed.
— Assignment of responsibilities to priesthood and Relief Society.
— Maps, addresses and contact information of members.
— A procedure to account for missionaries and members following a disaster.
— A list of members with special needs.
— Procedures to assist members who might experience emotional trauma.
— A list of members with available resources such as medical training or the ability to operate heavy equipment.
— How stake leaders will contact the area office (outside the United States and Canada) or Church headquarters (U.S. and Canada) following a disaster.
— Contact information for the local government, the Red Cross and other emergency response agencies.

The recent earthquakes in Chile and Haiti demonstrated the instability of communication systems during an emergency. Land line and cell phone service was severely impacted during the quakes, rendering useless most traditional forms of electronic communication. As part of a stake or ward emergency plan, the Church has instructed priesthood leaders to consider how to contact missionaries and members following a disaster and how to communicate the status of members, buildings and other necessary information to area leaders.

Local priesthood leaders should also consider available emergency communication equipment such as satellite telephones and amateur radios. A ward or stake communication specialist can also be called to organize and direct communication issues.

While stakes and wards are responsible for organizing their respective emergency response plans, it's vital that every family and individual have their own personal plan in place when disaster hits. Circumstances may prevent even local priesthood leaders from offering immediate aid, so families must be prepared to care for themselves.

The Church's Provident Living web site ( offers several items that should be included in a simple family/individual emergency plan. Items to be considered may include:

— A three-month supply of food that is part of a family's normal daily diet.
— Drinking water stored in sturdy, leak-proof, breakage-resistant containers, such as plastic bottles commonly used for juices and soft drinks.
— An appropriate financial reserve.
— Medication and first aid supplies.
— Clothing and bedding.
— Important documents that are readily available in case of evacuation.
— Ways to communicate with family/priesthood leaders following a disaster.

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